Legacy Limelight: How Shelter grew their legacy reach by 124%

Published 11 September 2023

About Legacy Limelight

After the legacy giving sector came together at the Smee & Ford Legacy Giving Awards in April, we want to continue the celebration of legacy professionals and the impact of their incredible work.

In this new series, Legacy Limelight, we will be sharing inspirational stories from across the legacy sector, shining a light on the difference that legacies can make for charities and their beneficiaries, and showcasing the people who make legacy gifts happen.

This September, we are proud to be joining forces with hundreds of charities, professional advisers, and partners across the UK to celebrate Remember A Charity Week.

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In this Q&A we asked Elle Cohen, Senior Legacy Marketing Manager at Shelter about their Will Week campaign, what inspired their Collaboration Champions idea and what winning the Smee & Ford Excellence in Collaboration and Partnership in Legacy Giving Award has meant for the charity. 

Legacy Team + AD

Q: How important are legacies as an income stream for Shelter and the overall fundraising strategy for the charity?

Very! Gifts in wills make up approximately 23% of our voluntary net income and are usually unrestricted to the charity, giving us the much needed flexibility to support all of the work we do. We’re in a lucky position at Shelter whereby our senior leadership and trustee board understand and acknowledge the potential growth in the legacy sector over the next couple of decades and fully support our efforts to ensure that Shelter sees a good growth in line with, or even exceeding the sector.

Q: Can you tell us a bit more about Shelter Will Week and what the inspiration was for the Collaboration Champions idea?

Every year, we promote our integrated legacy fundraising campaign, Shelter Will Week. We engage audiences including retail customers, staff, volunteers, warm and cold supporters. It's integrated across on and offline channels including printed materials, digital marketing, press advertising, internal promotion and email marketing.   


In September 2021, we launched a new way of working with regional Collaboration Champions. The Collaboration Champions are an internal steering group set up shortly before September 2021 and involves colleagues from retail, direct dialogue, individual giving, high value partnerships, and community. The idea of the group is to enable teams to run highly integrated campaigns and easily access and engage with other teams. Upon learning of the group’s conception, we felt that Shelter Will Week would be a great project for them to start with due to the huge opportunity available.


Image from Shelter's Will Week campaign

Q: What was the biggest challenge(s) about this project and how did you overcome it/them?

The biggest challenge about this project was probably the sheer scale of it and how many different areas within the charity it aimed to involve. It can be easy for many charities to find different teams or directorates working in quite siloed ways. At Shelter we aim to encourage and facilitate collaborative working as much as possible and we do this very well, but it’s always a challenge! Despite the Collaboration Champions being brand new at the time, they were instrumental in overcoming that challenge.

Q: This campaign reached over 1 million people, which was an impressive uplift of 124% year-on-year. What do you think was the key driving factor(s) behind this result?

There were a few key driving factors behind that result. We took the time to research which publications it made sense to advertise in, where we could have the greatest reach possible with our intended audience. This included how to use our budget effectively on digital platforms to not only maximises reach, but drive action. With help from the Collaboration Champions we were able to engage all Shelter shops across England and Scotland and finally, again with help from the Collaboration Champions and specifically our Community team, we were able to get our legacy materials in local hotspots.

Q: What other impacts has this campaign had for Shelter?

Working so closely with the Community team, via the connection to the Collaboration Champions, also played a part in leading to us launching Legacy x Community Hybrid Events in 2022 which have been seeing fantastic results and is still a growing program with more regions covered in 2023.

Q: What was your top learning from this campaign, and how will you take that forward into subsequent projects?

There were a lot of learnings from this campaign but I think the biggest overall was how many great ideas can come from our non-legacy colleagues, once they are motivated and empowered to get involved in a legacy campaign. A lot of times these are ideas that simply wouldn’t have occurred to the legacy team and have a huge impact on results.

Q: What do you think the top challenge(s) will be for legacy marketing teams over the next year?

Personally I would say diversifying legacy marketing strategies and annual programs. Many charities are great at communicating with their warm supporters but getting your legacy message in front of a cold audience is so important, with lots of charities seeing a high percentage of legacy gifts, coming from people who were previously unknown. People are spending more and more time online and engage with charities in a wide variety of ways, via charity shops, in their local community, on social media. It’s so important that legacy marketing programmes cover a wide base.

Q: If you had to give just one top tip for a legacy marketing team to focus on right now, what would it be? 

Making sure you know and understand your target audience, especially what their other interests might be. This could be groups they are a part of or companies they subscribe to regular communications from. If you’re able to secure some investment for external advertising, use this insight to identify and test different types of campaigns and mediums where you can get your legacy message in front of a cold audience.

...many great ideas can come from our non-legacy colleagues, once they are motivated and empowered to get involved in a legacy campaign.

Elle Cohen, Senior Legacy Marketing Manager

In the next installment we speak to Jill Bowler from Dougie Mac hospice. 

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